So you decided you want to study Islam and become a scholar. 'Masha Allah' some people will say. 'Extremist!' others will say and thats just the beginning. It is not easy trying to spread Islam while you are young, in fact it is very difficult. This article is not meant to put young people off Islamic work but rather to get others to understand our feelings and change their attitudes and to prepare young people like myself for the tests that lie ahead. This article is written for me first before anyone else, because Allah knows how much I need this reminder.
When a person chooses to dedicate their life to Islamic work, they should expect problems...a lot of problems. This is the sunnah of Allah, the closer you are to Allah, the harder the test of life gets and the greater the reward is in the Afterlife. Yet, it is even harder for the youth as the reward is even greater. Ever wondered why a young person who worships Allah will be under the shade of Allah's Throne on the Last Day? It's because it is the hardest time to be good, and even harder time to be active in the Dawah.
Here is a list of the most common challenges I have faced so far so you can understand what I am talking about:
1. Who is right?
I can't count the amount of times I just broke down and almost went crazy trying to figure out who is right and who I should take knowledge from. There are so many Islamic groups, sects, mazhabs, etc that young students can lose their minds trying to figure out the truth.
The Solution: Turn to Allah, Allah promised that He will never let a sincere seeker of the truth go astray, so if you turn to Him and study hard, Allah will guide you to the truth, and even if you make mistakes along that path, Insha Allah, you will be forgiven and it will be overlooked as an Ijtihad (struggling to work out the truth) error.
I made many mistakes as a teenager when I first started studying Islam in that I forgot how to deal with people and became a bit of a Haram Police, which led to many family ties breaking and it just lead to more problems. It is easy to get caught up in Shaytaan's trap of Self-righteousness when studying Islam and this is very dangerous as it puts other people off Islam itself.
Solution: Relax, think before you speak or act, realize you are dealing with humans and that you too have sins and mistakes, so deal with people in a nice friendly manner, it will accomplish a lot more than barking and hulking up.
3. Dealing with overzealousness of others:
So you remain calm and deal with people nicely, unfortunately many others don't deal with you the same, they bark at you and call you a hypocrite if you make the slightest mistake, this can be very discouraging.
Solution: Remain cool and calm (very hard to do), listen to what they are saying, if they are right, apologize, thank them and change. If they are wrong, apologize, thank them and don't change. Just don't tell them they are wrong because people like this normally can't accept correction and it will lead to an unnecessary fight that will waste precious time, energy and cause ill-feelings.
4. The Elders can't be wrong
Some people will not tolerate any different opinion coming from a youngster. If a youngster says something and the elders say something else, the elders have to be right, they say. This can lead to one's Dawah becoming ineffective.
Solution: Normally in these situations, it is just the elders of that area that hold to a wrong opinion so as a youngster, if you know that they won't listen to you, get an elderly person who shares your view to preach it to them, this will make it easier to digest and at the very least, they can't throw the youngster card at him.
5. You are too young to preach
This happens too often. If a person does not agree with the view of a youngster, they throw the youth card at him. Once I told a man that it is unislamic to make tribalism the criterion for marriage, his reply, "you are still young, you'll understand that you are wrong when you get older,"
My worst experience with this is an old man who I use to work for in a Dawah organization. One day he started talking very arrogantly and rudely to me in front of a new convert. I told him politely to please stop as he is making Islam look bad. He then started shouting and told me the following in front of the entire staff and the converts, "YOU ARE JUST A CHILD! I WILL NEVER ACCEPT CORRECTION FROM YOU EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT! YOU ARE JUST A CHILD, YOU MUST FOLLOW ME AND DON'T YOU EVER CORRECT ME AGAIN,"
Solution: this is reality, it might happen to you. Just stay far far away from such people and stick to dealing with nice friendly people to avoid get emotionally scarred for life.
6. How dare you change your opinion!
It will happen! As you study Islam, you will realize that you had at least a few points of Aqeedah or fiqh wrong and it is now time to change. When that happens, expect backlash from the community if they are dogmatic about those practices. The worst that happened to me in this situation? It use to be getting beat up by some classmates for questioning the Shaykh-Mureed Sufi system, but last year I got accused of being Salafi and fired from my job and was unable to find a job for many months. That is by far the worst thing that happened to me in regards to this issue.
Solution: Read the second verse of Suran Ankabut and realize that it will happen, if you change a belief for the sake of Allah, it will happen. He will test you in a variety of ways to see how strong you are in your beliefs, the only solution is to suck it in, be patient and await the help of Allah. Allah has promised that He will test us and help us out of the test if we are patient.
7. Cultural Expectations:
Different cultures have different expectations for a student of knowledge. In my community, if you are a student of knowledge, you are expected to wear a Thowb or Kurta with a Islamic hat full-time, you can not wear jeans under your Kurta, just Kurta pants. You should not have fun, have a personality or a sense of humor, etc. Non of this has any basis in Islam and all it does is cause unnecessary difficulties for young students of knowledge, leading to one of three scenarios, either the youngster submits to cultural norms and ends up living a miserable life not being himself, or he chooses to live a double life and risk being called a hypocrite, or he decided to show people that these expectations have no basis in Islam and are wrong, which leads to the community turning against him.
Solution: I don't know, each option has it's good and bad, personally I'm somewhere between the first and third, I do some of these things like wearing a thowb and hat most of the time to avoid unnecessary fights, at the same time I try to educate people that these things are not important and irrelevant.
These are just some of the problems, young Muslims face when they choose the path of Islamic work. Is it worth going through all this? Yes, because the shade of Allah's Throne, Paradise and His eternal happiness with you are all worth it.
May Allah grant us all strength to handle the tests of life and make us all rightly guided and a means of guidance for others.